Saturday, March 21, 2020

Quiet Days

Already we are feeling spring in the air! Usually we have snow on the ground, and more in our weather forecasts, in the middle of March*. This week has been warmer and rainy.

Adam has been busy in the garden this week. He has cultivated a couple of beds and is getting ready to plant peas and beets.
  Before the springtime flowers are in full bloom I wanted to share some pictures of my African violets. At this point they aren't blooming quite so profusely as they were when I took these pictures back in January. I love how my African violets are most vibrant during the long winter months. They help cheer me through the dark winter days.
  Once spring arrives I will need to re-pot my violets. Two of my plants have grown new plants.
  During the winter months I tend to enjoy baking more than I do the rest of the year. When I was growing up my mom would often bake a recipe called "Cinnamon Flop Bread". I loved waking up to the smell of cinnamon on a Saturday
  Baking something delicious is a great way to make a dark rainy day feel cozy and comforting.
   The picture above shows what the "bread" should look like before baking. The cinnamon flop in the blue pan has been sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar, while the other has not. I did this so could see how to distribute the butter.

Cinnamon Flop Bread
1 cup sugar (I use brown)
2 cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 Tbsp. melted butter
1 cup milk

Mix and spread into two greased pans. I will often use one bread pan and a pie plate, but two bread pans would work too.
Dot with one stick of butter that has been cut into small pieces. Sprinkle with mixture of 1/2 cup brown sugar and 1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon.
Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes
  Recently I sewed this dirndl for my daughter. She loves wearing this style of dress and was especially pleased with the pink ribbons! It is a very versatile outfit, lately she has been wearing the dirndl with a turtle neck or tee-top. Once the weather is warmer the dirndl will be worn with a white peasant blouse.
 The dirndl pattern I used was designed by my mom with a little help from myself. My mom makes a variety of European inspired dresses and sells them here.

"He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.
 I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust."
Psalm 91:1-2 

*I wrote this post last week.

Saturday, February 29, 2020

Amy Le Feuvre Books

 Today I would like to share four books written by Amy Le Feuvre that I have enjoyed. If you like stories that take place in England during the 1800's then these are books that you will not want to miss!
  The Secret Bridge  is the story of Bridget, a lonely young woman recently bereaved of her father. She finds herself alone and penniless. Lacking the skills to provide for herself she finds that she must rely upon the kindness of a new acquaintance. Without giving the entire story away, I will say that Bridget finds herself residing in a lovely farm house near the ocean. As Bridget becomes familiar with the people in the community she finds herself in the middle of a feud between the two most prominent families. What I loved most about this story was the spiritual growth of Bridget. She desires to grow closer to her Savior and rely on Him in all of the obstacles she faces. A wise friend shares the challenge: “Acquaint thyself with Him.” and all throughout the story we see how Bridget grows when she does just that.

On the Edge of a Moor is a lovely story of a young woman who decides to move to a small cottage "on the edge of a moor". At that time it was unheard of that a young woman would live alone. However our main character, Rhoda, is not completely alone as she has her maid to accompany her on this adventure. Rhoda is a well meaning young woman who desires to reach the poor and uneducated people living on the moors for the Lord. Rhoda is a wonderful character! She is full of enthusiasm and youthful hopes. Once again there is a wonderful picture of spiritual growth in this story. Rhoda learns so much while teaching those around her. On the Edge of the Moor is filled with beautiful descriptions of the English moors and there is a grand cast of characters that I am sure I will want to revisit in the future.

The Treasure of the Secret Cove is truly an exceptional story of mystery, adventure and romance. Once again, the setting of this story is beautifully described. The main character, Marjorie, lives in a fantastic mansion on a cliff overlooking the ocean. Her love of the sea and tendency towards mischief involve her in quite a mystery. So in order not to give away too much, I will say no more. : )

The Locked Cupboard was the first book I read by Amy Le Feuvre. Being one of three sisters, I enjoyed this story of four sisters immensely! When visiting their childhood nurse, Nannie, each girl is advised to seek God in earnest. To help them along that path Nannie shares four special verses from Psalm 37. The Dane sisters are orphaned and left with a small amount of money to support themselves with each year. Used to living in a large home with every convenience they are now forced to leave that way of life for a simpler existence. They rent a small cottage in the country and begin a new life. The sisters are all unique in their personalities and struggles. It was interesting to read how each of them grew in the Lord and how the truth of their specific verse from Psalm 37 impacted their life. Of course there is that mysteriously locked, carved cupboard in the cottage they rent, which definitely adds interest to the story. The cast of characters are unforgettable making for another wonderful read!

One element that I especially appreciate in all of the books I have read by Amy Le Feuvre is her ability to write an exciting story and naturally interweave a message of personal growth in Jesus. I have found myself inspired by the faith and growth of the characters in her stories.

In case you are interested in purchasing any of these books, I will include links below. All of these books were given to me as gifts by my family and I am writing this review in order to share something I have enjoyed.

The Secret Bridge
One the Edge of a Moor
The Treasure of Secret Cove
The Locked Cupboard 

Have you read any of Amy Le Feuvre's books? If so, do you have a favorite?

Monday, February 17, 2020

A New Favorite Dress

As you may guess from the pictures, this is a dress I sewed sometime last year and it has taken me quite a while to find the time to write this post. In fact I sewed this dress sometime last summer, as it was one of my entries in our county fair!
  It quickly became one of Jemimah's favorite dresses! The ribbons, ruffles, embroidery and bows made this dress irresistible to my ruffle and ribbon loving daughter!
 The pattern is from the early 1980's. I was drawn by the details of this pattern. You don't often see patterns with this many options for embellishments. It was hard for me to choose which style to sew first! I look forward to sewing the option with the cream sleeves and apron at some point, maybe come fall.
 I decided to sew view three, as I was especially drawn to the ribbon inset. I had hoped to find a fabric that would coordinate with red ribbon, since it looked so lovely on the pattern envelope. But I was pleased with the navy calico I was able to find and the gold ribbons are a more subtle accent.
 My daughter was very pleased with the little bows on the wrists. They seemed to make the dress extra special to her.
The "V" shaping of the bodice gives this dress an old-fashioned fair tale look. My little girl looks a bit like Goldilocks whenever she wears this dress! : )

We were also extremely pleased when this dress won best of sewing at our county fair.

I hope you have all been enjoying a peaceful and cozy winter so far. Have you been working on any special projects?

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Butternut Squash Soup and Bread Dressing Recipes

I found this turkey platter at a barn sale a few years back. I love the colors.
As we prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving this week I thought I would share two recipes that we have enjoyed lately. I think both recipes would be a nice addition to a Thanksgiving meal.
We were blessed with a fine harvest of squash in our garden this year. Butternut squash soup is one of my favorite soups and up until this year I had yet to find a recipe that I really liked. Earlier this fall I found a recipe online that was very close to what I was looking for, but there were a few changes I made to make the recipe exactly what I thought butternut squash soup should taste like.
The recipe for the soup is fairly simple, but truly delicious!

Butternut Squash Soup

Cut one large butternut squash (about three pounds) in half. Season with salt and pepper, drizzle with olive oil. Then bake in the oven at 425 degrees for about an hour or until tender. Once you have removed the squash from the oven allow it to cool, once cool remove the skin.
Saute one small onion in olive oil, once translucent add two cloves of minced garlic. After a minute add 2-4 cups of chicken broth. The amount of broth will depend upon the size of your squash and how thick you would like your soup to be. I typically add 4 cups. Allow the onions, garlic and broth to simmer until vegetables are tender.

Add squash in chunks to broth mixture. The next step is to puree the soup. For this step I use my blender, but you could you an immersion blender. If using a blender I recommend blending the soup in two batches so as not to over fill your blender.

Once your soup has reached the desired consistency return soup to sauce pan and add two tablespoons of maple syrup and two tablespoons of butter. You can add some salt and pepper to taste as well.
Miranda is my supper time companion every night. She loves to sit in the window beside me and patiently wait for a little treat. Surprisingly enough Miranda even likes butternut squash soup! She is a unique cat.
Adam's favorite Thanksgiving dish is bread dressing. I realize the picture of dressing doesn't look all that appetizing, but I snapped a picture before baking the dressing. I knew that once it was baked I wouldn't have time to take a picture. : )

 Bread Dressing

1/2 cup butter
3 cups chopped celery
1 1/2 cups chopped onions
14-16 cups bread cubes (I used sourdough and Italian bread that was slightly stale)
2-3 tsp. sage
1 tsp. salt*
1/2 tsp. pepper
3-4 cups broth (enough to moisten the bread)

Saute onions and celery in butter. Add broth, simmer until onions and celery are tender. Toss sage, salt and pepper with bread cubes. Add broth mixture to bread cubes. If necessary you can add additional broth if bread cubes are still too dry. At this point I usually have Adam taste test in case I need any extra salt or sage.
*I would recommend starting with 1/2 tsp. of salt and then adding more if needed. Sometimes the broth can be too salty and this can create a dressing that is too salty.

Bake in a well buttered 9x13" baking pan at 375 degrees for 40-45 minutes or until crispy and golden.

Another recipe I make each Thanksgiving, and pretty much every holiday, is coleslaw. I shared this recipe a couple of years ago and thought I would add a link for those who may have missed that post.
Starting today I am offering 10% off all of the items in my Etsy shop. The sale runs through December 3rd. If you are looking for a Christmas present for a friend or family member please consider taking a look at the items I am offering.
I hope you all enjoy a blessed and beautiful Thanksgiving! Is there a special family favorite recipe you plan to prepare this year?

"Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands. Serve the Lord with gladness: come before his presence with singing. Know ye that the Lord he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.  Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name. For the Lord is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations." Psalm 100

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Homemade Grape Juice

Over the years we enjoyed purchasing locally made grape juice. If you have never tried freshly made grape juice you are truly missing out. : ) The store bought grape juice cannot even begin to compare with the delicious flavor found in fresh grape juice.

We have friends that make grape juice each year. Canning homemade grape juice has been something that my mom and I have wanted to try for many years now. This year we finally purchased a steam juicer so we could make our own grape juice and we are so glad that we did!

We were inspired when a neighbor invited us to pick grapes at his home. Adam and I picked a bushel and were able to produce nearly 14 quarts of grape juice from that bushel using the steam juicer.

We purchased our juicer from a local Mennonite grocery store. We found the steam juicer very easy to use and I am sure we will be making a variety of juices next year.
Adam describes the steam juicer as a triple boiler. You fill the top pan with grapes, the middle pan catches the juice from the top pan and the bottom pan is filled with water to create the steam. The top pan looks like a colander as it is filled with holes. The middle pan looks much like an angel food cake pan as it has a hole in the center which allows the steam to pass through to the top pan. It is quite a clever design and works great.
 Since we had the steam juicer and found that making the grape juice was fairly easy we decided we needed to find a source for more grapes. After looking on-line I found a few different vineyards that offered u-pick grapes. The prices were a lot less than I had expected. We figured that each quart of homemade grape juice cost less than a dollar to make. Plus homemade grape juice is much thicker than store bought, water can be added to home canned grape juice, stretching it even farther. Visiting the vineyard was a real treat! It was truly a beautiful place.
 I am so excited and grateful to have home canned grape juice in the pantry for the winter ahead.

"Be glad, people of Zion, rejoice in the Lord your God, for he has given you the autumn rains because he is faithful. He sends you abundant showers, both autumn and spring rains, as before. The threshing floors will be filled with grain; the vats will overflow with new wine and oil." Joel 2:23-24
 P.S. The pictures of the grapes and vineyard were taken by Adam. : )

Saturday, August 31, 2019

Baby Chicks and Flowers

 Earlier this month we added seven little hens to our flock. We lost two of our older hens this summer and had only three left. It was depressing to imagine how cold and lonely winter would be with only three hens - but we thought it was too late in the season to purchase baby chicks. 

Much to our surprise Adam discovered that our local Tractor Supply was selling baby chicks earlier this month. What surprised us even more was the selection they had available. Back when we purchase our original seven hens they only had Isa Brown pullets available.
 This time however they had several breeds to choose from, in fact it was little hard to decide, so Adam picked out the seven little beauties we brought home.

Adam chose two Barred Rocks, two Brahmas, two Plymouth Blue Rocks and one Silver Laced Wyandotte. The little cutie in the picture above is one of the Plymouth Blue Rocks. Adam claimed both Blue Plymouth Rocks and named them Callie and Iola after the Hardy Boys' girlfriends. : )
 They are all adorable and such fun to watch. Jemimah is thrilled with the baby chicks. The white Brahmas are her babies. She has been hoping to train them to ride in her bicycle basket.
 Miranda has found the baby chicks quite fascinating. When they were tiny we kept them in a box on the porch with a screen over the top. Miranda watched them all day long! The picture above is of Miranda watching them out of the kitchen window.
 Each August I anticipate the first blossom from my Rose of Sharon bushes.  I love to see each variety blossom. We have three different pinks, a white and a lavender.
 I think the color of this Rose of Sharon is especially pretty.
The cows across the road have been fun to watch all summer. There is nothing quite like waking up to the sound of cows mooing. This year the farmer has had a bull penned up, separate from the other cows. The bull does not moo, I'm not sure what to call the noise, but it sounds a lot like a fog horn on a ship. Thankfully he is quiet most of the time, but when he does sound off, we all have to chuckle over the absurd sound.

"The LORD is good to all: and His tender mercies are over all His works." Psalm 145:9

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Jam, Zucchini Bread and A Doily

 Zucchinis are one of my favorite vegetables! They are incredibly versatile, just yesterday I was commenting to my mom how many ways I have incorporated zucchini into our meals. Last night we enjoyed a supper of zucchini pancakes, corn on the cob, tomatoes and cucumbers- all from our garden, and for dessert zucchini brownies. It is such a blessing, especially since our first few gardens at our home were complete failures

In the picture above I had made a savory cheddar cheese zucchini bread and double chocolate zucchini bread. When I make the double chocolate zucchini bread I substitute the 1/2 cup of sugar with 1/3 cup honey, making it a little healthier. My daughter, niece and nephew all refer to the double chocolate zucchini bread as chocolate cake. It truly is a delicious recipe.
 Another recipe I tried for the first time this year is Peach Maple Jam. Adam made maple syrup this spring. Much of it was boiled over an open fire and it has a marvelous flavor. It was fun to find a jam recipe that could use some of Adam's syrup. The flavor of the maple syrup and vanilla combined with peaches is unique and absolutely delightful.
 Recently I finished crocheting the doily pictured above. It was a fun project and the design is one of the prettiest I have seen in quite a while. I love the unique shape. It looks perfect on my kitchen table under our oil lamp. The pattern I used can be purchased here.
 This was our first year to plant sweet corn. Jemimah loves corn and was extremely excited to plant corn with her papa this spring. She monitored her corn daily and compared her corn's growth with the corn in surrounding fields. You can imagine how thrilled she was to eat the first ears of corn from our garden. : ) We have been eating corn a few times each week for the past couple weeks. Jemimah has been very pleased to pick the corn for supper and then husk it. I love to see her carrying the freshly husked ears of corn in her apron skirt. 

We are already planning to plant more corn next year in hopes of having enough to freeze or can.
Right now I am collecting up tomatoes with plans to make pizza sauce and spaghetti sauce.

Do you have a favorite zucchini recipe? Or a favorite jam recipe?

"Make a joyful noise unto God, all ye lands: Sing forth the honor of his name: make his praise glorious" Psalm 66:1-2